Post COVID-19: Could free returns finally be a thing of the past?

Anders Ankarlid
14 min readApr 16, 2020

Summary: eCommerce old-timer Anders Ankarlid highlights the mind-blowing costs of free returns, and how online retailers and the environment are splitting the bill. The full consequences of COVID-19 are hitting eCommerce companies — and their bottom-line — hard. A new world that will see a heavily reduced profit margin for the eCommerce giants, will also be the end of free returns for you.

Learn more about how big eCommerce companies are losing more than €1 billion due to increased shipping cost, what this means for you as a consumer and some tangible tips on what to do post COVID-19.

There’s one thing about ordering things online that I bet most of you don’t even think about. I’d even go so far as to say that you take for granted the very existence of what I’m referring to.

Maybe you guessed it already? That’s right.

Free deliveries and returns.

If there’s one aspect of eCommerce that I’ve always had a problem with during my many successful, and let’s face it, less successful, online retail ventures, it’s the free returns policy that has become a staple in the business.

If you break it down into super-easy, bite-sized lingo, it goes a little something like this:

The impact your order has on the environment is massively increased, and for no good reason. Also, the free returns end up costing our biggest eCommerce companies millions of euros each year, which is money they could perhaps have spent on making their operations more sustainable.

But let’s back it up a bit.

What’s the deal with all these free returns?

Ever since eCommerce became a go-to shopping method for people, free deliveries and returns have helped fuel a culture of mindless consumption that’s costly both to businesses and the environment.

I’m sure you’ve been there.

I know I have, there’s no point in denying that fact, and so have most of my friends and family.